It was Easter and the priest gathered the children up front for the usual children’s sermon. He showed them an egg and asked if they knew what was inside the egg. A little girl in the group eagerly raised her hand and said that she knew the answer. The priest then asked her to share it and proudly she responded, “Pantyhose!”
Actually, the company that used to sell its pantyhose in large plastic eggs has long since abandoned those in favor of more biodegradable packaging, but the truth is that most urban children today really don’t associate an egg with something that could contain life inside its shell. With the exception of children in Key West or some parts of Miami, where chickens roam freely in the streets, most of our children think that eggs come in foam cartons from the supermarket, ready to make delicious omelets or end up as colored hard-cooked eggs to be found at the Easter egg hunt.
But the reality is that eggs and Easter are interrelated. Eggs have been symbols of rebirth since pagan times, because they evoked the rebirth of Earth in spring. The Church adopted the egg as a symbol of the most miraculous rebirth of all–the resurrection of Jesus.
In the West we have borrowed our tradition of Easter eggs from our Orthodox brothers and sisters, who dye eggs red to symbolize the blood of our Lord on the cross and use the egg’s hard shell to symbolize the sealed tomb of Christ. Orthodox priests bless the eggs at the end of the Paschal Vigil.
One of my favorite stories related to Easter eggs tells us that Mary Magdalene was bringing hard-cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb and when she saw the resurrected Christ the eggs turned brilliant red.
Easter eggs give us a great opportunity to teach our children about the resurrection of the Lord as we remind them that an egg can be carrier of life inside its shell. Then we can also tell them about the new life that came out of the sealed tomb–that in the midst of death there is life, and that through the Paschal mystery we are buried with Christ by Baptism into his death and can be raised with him to newness of life.
+Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida